Durham News: Sports

July 21, 2014

First Tee offers a different type of golf lesson

First Tee of the Triangle was founded 10 years ago as a way to bring golf to junior players who could least afford it or who didn’t have access to courses in their neighborhoods. A new component has been added this summer with the addition of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program.

For Ricardo Rowland, golf is another path to success besides the traditional sports of basketball and football. So as soon as he could, he enrolled his now 10-year-old daughter Kendall into the First Tee of the Triangle program.

“I played tennis in school. There are so many other avenues for minorities than just basketball and football,” Rowland said. “It’s time for us to start thinking outside the box. There are many more (college) scholarships available in golf, tennis and even lacrosse.”

First Tee was founded as a way to bring the game to those who could least afford it or who didn’t have access to junior golf programs in their neighborhoods. Over 15,000 Triangle kids have gone through the program since its inception 10 years ago.

But its main mission is to not only teach the game but to instill character and provide educational programs.

“We teach nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment,” Senior Program Director Doug Samson said. “Golf is the game but life skills is the lesson.”

First Tee hosts after-school programs throughout the school year and summer camps at various golf courses. A new component was added this summer with the addition of a STEM program.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics aspect was incorporated into the summer camp curriculum during the six, week-long sessions.

“The response has gone very well,” Samson said. “They’ve learned how to design a golf hole on a tablet (donated by Lenova). They’ve learned about aerodynamics – how a ball reacts under different weather conditions. It’s all about the learning.”

Kevin Covington knew of First Tee’s reputation from a program in Atlanta. So when his 8-year-old nephew, Jalen Carter, wanted to try golf, it was a no-brainer.

“I immediately went online to see if there was a First Tee in this area,” said Covington, who coaches at the School of Science and Math. “As a mechanical engineer, I know how important STEM is in education. They (First Tee) are all about education first. This gives him (Jalen) a good education and a good work ethic, and he enjoys it.”

Although the camp cost is an affordable $89 for the week, First Tee offers scholarships for low-income families.

“A lot of these kids have never picked up a club before,” said Tyler Stohlman who designed the STEM program. “We enjoy watching the growth in their skills.”

Kendall Rowland can relate to that.

“When I first started, I got frustrated because it was hard,” she said. “But as I kept practicing, it got easier. I like the challenge of getting to learn new things and meet new people.”

To learn more about the program, call 919-239-8056 or email info@thefirstteetriangle.org.

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